In the lockdown period imposed by Covid-19, VPN and Smart-Working were two of the most pronounced words. Those who have experienced working from home have certainly found themselves dealing with the Virtual Private Network: a fundamental solution to allow secure connections during remote work activities.
This tool is, however, very complex and articulated. Configuring a truly secure network for smart-working is not an easy task, especially if you don’t have expertise in the field. It is therefore natural to wonder how convenient it really is to use a VPN to connect to company infrastructures.
How does a VPN work
What makes the adoption of a VPN for smart-working efficient lies in its operation. The Virtual Private Network is based on the concept of creating a “private” channel, which allows to transmit and receive data in a reliable way. The degree of protection is determined by specific computer protocols, which can be implemented and combined according to precise criteria.
However, it should be stressed that VPNs are not all the same. They differ both in the technology they use and in the use made of them. There are three variants of the technology classification:
- VPN Trusted: they include a type of connection in which there is no tunneling procedure on a public medium. Instead, virtual circuits are used, rented from an external provider, which simulate a single cable within a hypothetical LAN connection;
- VPN Secure: they use public networks (including the internet and cloud platforms) and protect the data transported with encryption. They further increase the level of security through an authentication connection;
- Hybrid VPN: combine some of the advantages of the two previous types.
Depending on how they are used, VPN Remote Access (when a user accesses resources remotely through a browser or an ad-hoc application) or VPN Site-to-site (when connecting branches of the same company, departments within the company or companies with which the company collaborates).
VPN security protocols
What determines the degree of security of a VPN during smart-working, are the protocols on which it focuses. Also in this case there are many types, but the most used are IPSec (or IP Security) and SSL (Secure Socket Layer). The first is a very robust protocol that operates on the third level of the ISO/OSI Stack, while the second is the one adopted in the HTTPS and TLS protected communications on the web.
Although very secure, IPSec is highly dependent on hardware and software. This forces those who choose this solution to proceed with (often expensive) installations, which require a high degree of expertise.
The alternative is Open VPN, an open source software package that makes it easy to create reliable VPN connections. It is based on SSL/TLS encryption, is intuitive and very easy to install, thanks to on-screen guides that help even the most inexperienced user during configuration.
You can therefore conclude that smart-working VPNs are a wise choice, and almost mandatory, if you want to operate safely. By optimally setting up networks, the risks of cyber attacks are significantly reduced.
However, it should be pointed out that it is necessary to train the user, so that they know the correct methodologies to make the best use of these tools. The use of complex passwords, compliance with online rules of conduct and measures to prevent data leakage are all typical precautions for those who use VPNs in an informed manner.